These posts come from several sources. The blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. I am slowly blogging through Steele's Answers, posting each Q & A in the order in which they appear (whether I personally agree with the answer or not). I also post particularly eloquent passages from Dr. Steele's other writings. Occasionally I post "guest blogs" from other holiness writers.
QUESTION: Who are "the elect" in the New Testament?
ANSWER: All persevering believers in Jesus Christ, in contrast with "the called" who have been invited and by their refusal or indifference show themselves unfltted to partake of the marriage supper spread by Christ. This term is also applied to those angels whom God has chosen out from other created beings to be peculiarly associated with him in the government of the universe. Sometimes it signifies dear, choice, select, as in II John, verses 1 and 9.
QUESTION: If it is impossible to keep the law of God, why should we be condemned for not keeping it? (2) Do we need pardon for unconscious violations of a perfect law?
ANSWER: Law has several meanings in the Scriptures. The Adamic or Paradisaical law, the Levitical or Ceremonial law, and the Moral law. Only the latter are we bound to obey. It is possible for every one who is born of God to keep this law, because he loves Christ the Lawgiver, who makes the moral law to be "the law of liberty," not liberty to sin, but emancipation from the dominion of evil. Hence it is possible for every one to keep the royal law, the king of all laws, the law of love which carries the moral law in its bosom, for it is possible for every man, through penitent faith in Christ, to be born into the kingdom of love. (2) The law of love cannot be unconsciously violated, for if love turns to hatred, or indifference, consciousness must note the change. An act put forth in love may inadvertently harm my neighbor, but this is not sin. Do I not sin if I fail to keep the Adam law? The only expressed law given in Paradise was a prohibition. The implied Adamic law was love up to the full measure of his capacity, undiminished by sin. I am not required to serve God with Adam's powers, but with my present abilities crippled by sin. "Where little is given, little is required." Under the atonement everybody who knows the distinction between right and wrong has, through faith in Christ, the gracious ability to abstain from sinning — posse non peccare. The Lord Jesus be praised! This is the next best thing to the heavenly state — non posse peccare — the inability to sin. The first state leads to the second. Glory to God! The declaration that God's law cannot be kept reflects on both his justice and his goodness.
QUESTION: Is it not a fact that all Scriptural texts speaking of sin in the singular number have reference to inbred sin and never refer to actual sins (plural)? Is not this true?
ANSWER: It is not true. In the singular "sin" is found in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt., Mark and Luke) but once, "Every sin and blasphemy," etc. (Matt. 12:81). Stephen prayed, "Lord lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:60), "If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death," etc. "There is a sin unto death" (I John 5:16), and "If we say we have no sin" (1:8), in all these texts some act of sin is meant. The phrase "to have sin" is found elsewhere only in John 9:41, "If ye were blind, ye would have no sin;" 15:22, 24, "If I had not * * * spoken * * * they had not sin." Also, "He that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin" (19:11). This phrase "to have sin" the experts say is the strongest possible expression for an act entailing guilt. The poet Euripides uses it of one who has committed murder. John uses the term "sin" in only one signification, "the transgression of the law." Paul rhetorically personifies sin, i.e., sinning, as an imperial personage ruling sinners who become his slaves, and John personifies sin as a slave holder (8:34). "The slave of sin is bondage to sinning." Sow a thought, and you reap an act, sow an act, and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny. The consequences of Adam's transgression have damaged me, but the guilt he did not bequeath to me, because it is non-transferable. Yet Wesley in the second of the Articles of Religion speaks of Christ as "a sacrifice not only for original guilt, but also for the actual sins of man." Substitute Adam's for "original," and I will accept it.
QUESTION: A friend of mine says (1) that Jesus said nothing about the atonement, and (2) that the word is not in the New Testament. Is this so?
ANSWER: We should bear in mind that the four Gospels contain all the truths of Christianity in seed form. The atonement is thus taught in Matt. 20:28, "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many." If Christ had said more than this before his death and resurrection demonstrating that he is both God and man, and that for this reason he only was capable of making an atonement, he would have bewildered and confounded his disciples by teaching a doctrine which they could not then have received. But after his blood had been shed and he had arisen, ascended, and poured out the Pentecostal gift in proof that he had reached the throne of his Father and was glorified, the doctrine of the atonement could now be clearly unfolded and its relation to salvation be revealed by the Paraclete as Jesus had promised with respect to the many things he had to say which they could not then bear. (2) While it is true that the term atonement is not found in the Revised New Testament, the thing itself is found everywhere in other terms, such as redemption, propitiation, blood of sprinkling and sacrifice of himself. The absence of the words Trinity and sacrament is no valid argument against the fundamental doctrines, which are abundantly taught in other terms.
QUESTION: Reconcile the translation of Elijah [in] II Kings 2:11 (1) with John 3:13 "And no one has ascended into heaven," and (2) I Cor. 15:20, "Flesh and blood. cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven."
ANSWER: It is evidently an elliptical quotation from Deut. 30:12, "Who shall go for us to heaven, and bring it (God's command) unto us," etc.; also Prov. 30:3, 4, "Neither have I the knowledge of the Holy One, who hath ascended up into heaven, and descended?" Christ omitted the last clause of these texts, the return from heaven with a message for men. The context very clearly proves that this is the correct explanation. He is asserting his own sole competence to reveal heavenly truth, because he, the Son of man, is the only human teacher who has been in heaven and has brought down truths absolute and eternal. (2) Elijah's personality resides in his spirit. This certainly is in heaven. But on the mount of transfiguration he appeared in a visible form. We are taught in I Cor. 15:51, that when the dead are raised the living believers "will be changed in a moment." It is not unreasonable to suppose that Enoch and Elijah were the first fruits of this change of the living "in the twinkling of an eye."
QUESTION: Why do Wesleyan advocates of Christian perfection decline the phrase, "sinless perfection"?
ANSWER: "I do not contend for the term 'sinless,'" said Wesley, "though I do not object against it." He gave no reasons, except that it would be misunderstood and be a stumbling block to those whose definition of sin includes all innocent infirmities, all mistakes, all failures to realize our perfect ideals of character and usefulness, all thoughts of evil; and some include all temptations to sin. Such a perfection we must not expect in the present life. Therefore the term "sinless" should be applied only to him who could confidently say, "Which of you convicteth me of sin?" No one who has ever sinned can apply this adjective to himself. But according to I John 3:9, every one may lead an unsinning career from his new birth onward through time and eternity by the grace of God appropriated by faith.
QUESTION: What is meant by renouncing "all that he hath" in order to become a disciple of Christ? Luke 14:88.
ANSWER: It means that we must renounce the selfish principle of using our property solely for our gratification and that we must henceforth use it to glorify God, as his stewards or trustees. Only fanatics insist on the literal interpretation that no man can become a true disciple until he has pauperized himself and his family. None of Christ's requirements are in collision with the necessary conditions of human life. Property is necessary to human existence. We must have food, raiment, shelter, fuel, medicine, tools, teachers and books if we would advance beyond savagery. Opponents of the Gospel delight to load up Christianity with a lot of impracticabilities, such as hating father and mother, lending money to rum-smelling tramps, and, becoming a pauper in order to become a disciple. In all these matters the first law of interpretation is common sense.
QUESTION: Does not the new birth impart the Divine nature?
ANSWER: Properly speaking, only one man has the Divine nature, the only Son of God. The regenerate are figuratively called sons of God and are said to partakers of the Divine nature. This means that they have, through the Holy Spirit, taken on the likeness of God, in outline at least, a similarity to Christ, loving what he loves and hating what he hates.
QUESTION: Why is entire sanctification distinct from the forgiveness of sins and subsequent thereto?
ANSWER: There is a distinction in the nature of these two works; the first act taking place in the mind of God, as the moral Governor, and the second an act of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer. Again, a sinner begging for pardon realizes his transgressions of God's law and his need of forgiveness and believes for this only. He has little or no realization of his depravity, and for this reason he has not faith for its removal. After the spiritual life has been inspired in him and has encountered inward antagonisms he is in a condition to appreciate his need of purification and to believe for it with a faith much stronger than that required for forgiveness. It is much easier for a child of God to trust his loving Father than it is for a sinner to trust in God who is angry with the wicked every day. Hence it is a merciful arrangement that salvation should be administered in two installments. If the faith requisite for entire sanctification must be exercised for pardon, no one would find pardon. He would not be in a condition to fulfill this requirement.